Daily Archives: September 30, 2019

Bereavement in their death to feel

Photo of Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her son Pen, 1860, Unknown
Background Image: Photo of Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her son Pen, 1860, Unknown

Very unusual poem about hearing the news of someone dying (perhaps Elizabeth Barrett Browning) but nevertheless still sharing an “Immortal” bond with that “stranger” even though their “Presence” has gone. And it’s the final line of the poem, “Absconded – suddenly -” which leaves us wondering about the nature of the soul after death – is it hidden? is it immortal?

A few words jump out at me as perhaps being key to this poem: “feel” in the first stanza, “paralyze” in the second, and “Presence” in the third. Perhaps Emily is attempting to describe the process of how death works to transform someone with whom we’ve had a “Kinsmanship” with to that of someone who is now “vital only to Our Thought”. But is she is speaking about the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning then this is an unusual transition because Emily did not know her personally other than through her writings.

Thus maybe Emily is also describing her relationship with other writers as being “Vital”, as if they are friends connected through language and writing and through which Emily does not see any difference between a relationship with someone she physically has been in contact with and someone whom she has only known intellectually. Emily’s penchant for letter writing in lieu of her engaging with society would seem to support her view of living a life of letters and it might be why she capitalizes the word “Vital” at the start of the poem to describe her relationship with the person before they have died and then does not capitalize the word “vital” when they have passed on. That “Vital” relationship has been transformed “In dying” from “Vital” to merely the “vital” “Presence” of our thoughts because she can no longer engage anew with this “stranger”.

This could also suggest Emily sees the act of creating art and writing as a living process – that art is a life force of its own and thus when the artist died it is as if their soul as “suddenly” “Absconded”.